The passengers were observed by researchers during the 19-hour flight.

The longest non-stop flight in history landed in Sydney on Sunday morning, October 20, after more than 19 hours in the air since leaving New York.

Qantas’ experimental flight QF7879 travelled for exactly 19 hours and 16 minutes, the first of three very long-distance flights planned by the Australian airline this year. The company, which will also test a direct service between London and Sydney, plans to create regular commercial lines on these long routes.

Upon arrival, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce enjoyed a “truly historic moment”, both for his company and for the aviation world as a whole. After landing in Sydney, he said:

“This is the first of three test flights after which we will be able to see what recommendations we can make regarding how pilots can manage their fatigue, and passengers can manage jet lag. After 19 hours on that plane I think we did well. I feel like I made a much shorter flight than that. »

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner departed Friday evening from New York’s JF Kennedy Airport carrying only 49 people, mainly Qantas employees. The weight in the cabin was thus reduced, which made it possible to carry a sufficient quantity of fuel for the 16,000 kilometres of the journey.

According to the specialized website, the aircraft weighed 233 tons at takeoff, including 101 tons of kerosene.


Melatonin level

Four pilots took turns at the controls during the flight, and researchers from two Australian universities were on board to observe how passengers slept and fed, and to monitor their level of melatonin, the “sleep hormone”.

At the end of boarding, passengers were asked to set their watches for Sydney time. They were then kept awake until nightfall in eastern Australia. To do this, they were offered physical exercises, caffeine and spicy meals were served in a lighted cabin.

Six hours later, they were treated to a carbohydrate-rich meal before being invited to stop looking at screens. The lights were then dimmed to help them fall asleep.


What impact on the crew?

The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA), the union representing Qantas pilots, was concerned about whether the pilots’ rest time during this flight was of sufficient quality to maintain optimal performance.

It requested a “long-term scientific study” on the impact of these flights on crews.

The airline has stated that these test flights are only part of the work it does to ensure that its flights are operated safely.

The longest commercial flight in the world is currently a route between New York and Singapore launched in 2018 by Singapore Airlines, which lasts 18 hours and 30 minutes according to the company’s website.